2.2 Million Cambodian Children Exposed to High Heatwave Frequency

Cambodia is one of the countries currently affected, with 2.2 million children – or 37.1 percent of the total child population – exposed to high heatwave frequency, pointed out a UNICEF’s press release issued yesterday.

During a year in which heatwaves in both the southern and northern hemispheres broke records, a new UNICEF report entitled “The Coldest Year Of The Rest Of Their Lives: Protecting Children From The Escalating Impacts Of Heatwaves” highlights the already extensive impact of heatwaves on children and reveals that, even at lower levels of global heating, in just three decades, more regular heatwaves are unavoidable for children everywhere.

Heatwaves are especially damaging to children, as they are less able to regulate their body temperature compared to adults. The more heatwaves children are exposed to, the greater the chance of health problems including chronic respiratory conditions, asthma, and cardiovascular diseases. Babies and young children are at the greatest risk of heat-related mortality. Heatwaves can also affect children’s environments, their safety, nutrition and access to water, and their education and future livelihood.

The report estimates that by 2050, all of the world’s 2.02 billion children are expected to be exposed to high heatwave frequency, regardless of whether the world achieves a ‘low greenhouse gas emission scenario’ with an estimated 1.7 degrees of warming in 2050 or a ‘very high greenhouse gas emission scenario’ with an estimated 2.4 degrees of warming in 2050. Nearly half of all children in Africa and Asia will face sustained exposure to extreme high temperatures.

The report finds that 23 countries, including Cambodia, fall into the highest category for child exposure to extreme high temperatures. This will rise to 33 countries by 2050 under the low emissions scenario and 36 countries under the very high emissions scenario.

In Cambodia, even if the world keeps warming at 1.7 degrees or lower, that will still mean that 100 percent of children will be exposed to more than 4.5 heatwaves a year and that 55.7 percent will experience extreme high temperatures where more than 83 days a year exceed 35°C.

If warming rises to 2.4 degrees then not only will 100 percent of Cambodian children be exposed to more than 4.5 heatwaves a year but over 87.2 percent of them will experience extreme high temperatures. That would make Cambodia the 21st most affected country on the planet. A research report released in 2021 by UNICEF had already found that Cambodia is one of the 50 countries most at risk of the impacts of climate change.

“Climate change is already endangering the lives and wellbeing of Cambodian children, but this report shows that in the future Cambodia will be one of the most adversely affected countries in the world,” said Dr. Anirban Chatterjee, UNICEF Cambodia’s Acting Representative.

“We are therefore working closely with the Royal Government of Cambodia to address the challenges of climate change and protect the environment. A key pillar of this work is collaboration with key line Ministries to assess hazards and build climate resilient services and systems, while also ensuring that young people are at the centre of the response. We are also working with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to ensure children learn about climate change and how they can take positive action to protect their communities from the impact of climate change and environmental degradation,” Dr. Anirban Chatterjee added.

The research findings underscore the urgent need to adapt the services children rely on as the unavoidable impacts of global heating unfold. Cambodia has committed to carbon neutrality by 2050, but greater focus is needed towards continued mitigation efforts, to prevent the worst impacts of more harmful heatwaves and higher extreme temperatures.

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press